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UniSA and Eldercare: mastering the 'art' of communication

Monday, Nov 16, 2015

Final year UniSA Communication Design students will this week present a range of proposed pictogram images to Eldercare that are designed to improve the way resident care information is conveyed to front line care staff.

Clinical Information Systems Manager Catherine Le Cornu said Eldercare approached UniSA's research and professional design practice studio, matchstudio, about collaborating on the unique project in a bid to enhance internal communication across the organisation’s 12 residential aged care facilities.

“The computer-based software program which currently stores our residents’ care information underwent a recent upgrade and now residents’ needs can be communicated to carers using pictures instead of words,” said Ms Le Cornu.

“Inspired by the old adage ‘a picture tells a thousand words’, and knowing our staff come from a broad range of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, we quickly identified an opportunity for innovation and went to matchstudio with our proposal.”

Students from UniSA's School of Art, Architecture and Design worked together in groups throughout the second half of the year to create sets of pictograms that portrayed a range of resident care aids and equipment items such as wheelchairs, dentures and walking sticks.

Ms Le Cornu provided feedback to students throughout the semester and said the standard of the students’ work so far was ‘very high’.

“It’s very clear that the students have researched the requirements and have applied some very interesting concepts and, even though most of the students have not had previous exposure to the aged care sector, they have embraced the challenge,” said Ms Le Cornu.   

UniSA's matchstudio Director Jane Andrew also applauded the students’ enthusiasm.

“I have been really impressed with the way in which students have engaged with this project,” said Ms Andrew.

“This engagement has been significantly enhanced by Eldercare’s excellent briefing session and the organisation’s willingness to provide feedback through the concept development and design development process.”

UniSA Communication Design Lecturer Myra Thiessen guided students throughout the project, with the help of a team of tutors, and said she hoped students had learned a valuable lesson about the importance of teamwork.

“I also hope they have gained an understanding of the value of clear communication and the difference it can make to the way we live and interact. In environments like Eldercare, for example, good communication can literally mean a better quality of life for residents.”

It is expected that Eldercare will implement the best set of student designs across Eldercare’s residential aged care sites from January 2016.

Image: (L – R) Final year Communication Design student Natalie Schwarz reviewing her group’s designs with UniSA Communication Design Lecturer Myra Thiessen.